November is here along with our new safety roundtable featuring safety and health professionals across various locations and industries.

Q - What do you think will be the most important safety issues this year? What are the biggest challenges facing EHS leaders today?

BG - Coronavirus has put a huge strain on our industry and I think the biggest challenge right now is keeping people focused on safety.  People are stressed and have a lot on their minds.  For some industries and companies, just staying in business and keeping a job can take priority.  It’s very easy to lose focus which leads to injuries.

SO - Continuing the safety program during the COVID crisis has been hard for us as well. A lot of time is spent trying to stay ahead of the continual changes, but they seem to change almost daily. Devoting time to both COVID and day-to-day safety can become hard at times, but it’s important not to let your safety program become complacent.

TH - I am watching for the upward trends in regards to mental health and drug use. I fear there is more to come on this front and safety professionals need to be paying close attention. Effectively dealing with these two trending issues are going to be challenges we need to prepare for now. EAP programs are helpful. We also have a chaplaincy program available to all employees, whether in the field or office setting, for a more spiritual approach to healing.

Q - What have you learned from your hearing conservation and/or respiratory protection compliance programs?

TH - I’m sometimes surprised at the lack of training in our new arrivals. I have learned that, even in this day and age, our new employees have not received proper safety training from their former employers regarding hearing conservation and respiratory protection. We have to keep teaching and training! Don’t take it for granted that people come to you with the proper base safety knowledge in these areas.

BG - Just giving employees earplugs or earmuffs and expecting them to protect employees isn’t enough.  Many people wear their hearing protection devices improperly and do not have the protection they think they have.  Training on how and when to wear hearing protection is important.  Fit testing of earplugs, if available, can also be a great teaching tool.  It has surprised me when I’ve fit tested earplugs on employees and seen multiple cases of bad fits and little protection from noise.

BH - I’ve noticed just how impactful our hearing conservation program really is. It really teaches employees the importance of hearing protection and they now understand the benefits of wearing the correct hearing protection. They are actually trying each year to get a better score when tested.

SO - Remember that it is important to get an industrial hygiene test completed at the facility, then build your program around that. This also supports the confined space procedure. Implementation of the hearing conservation program must be consistent to work correctly.

Q - Any tips or tricks for increasing employee participation or employee engagement with health and safety? How do you create a safety culture?  

BH - First, if your employees know that the safety rules apply to everyone - including management - you have a better chance at a safe workplace. Make sure there are no exceptions. Encourage good safety practices and create a strong safety committee, if you don’t have one.

I think you need to listen to your employees, work with them to make them part of the solution. When you make them part of it, you have better buy-in. Reward employees for taking the extra steps to be safe and looking out for others.

TH - I totally agree with making employees part of the overall story. Trust them to be the difference maker! Give them the power to implement change and show them how the results are positive for everyone company-wide.

When there is an incident, employee involvement is key - letting their voice be heard in describing what happened and why it happened. More importantly, let them give their thoughts on how we can prevent incidents going forward so they have a stake in the solution.

BG - I want to add to the management comment by Branlund. A commitment to safety has to start at the top of the organization, with measurable actions set at each level down. Employees need to see that everyone in the company actually cares about safety and will take action to achieve it, not just talk about it. And as my fellow panelists here have said, employees need to feel like they have a voice and are empowered to take action in improving the company’s safety program.

SO - We did a scavenger hunt. I placed pictures of various people like sports stars, cartoon characters and politicians throughout the facility. All pictures were placed by a hazard. Once an employee found the picture, they had to also identify the hazard. The shift to complete the scavenger hunt first was awarded a cookout. The employees really had fun with this. Our pre-shift meeting is another great tool for us. We conduct toolbox safety talks each week led by our safety captains We also just introduced the DuPont Stop program. This program involves every employee.

Q - What advice do you have for a new safety pro just entering the EHS field?

SO - Your education is a small percent of what you will need. Learn from all the employees and cultivate positive working relationships with them. They will be the motor for a positive safety culture. The more you involve the employees in the program, the easier the buy-in will be. Once that is established, then your learning will continue as well as developing a solid program.

TH - And be engaging! To build trust with employees, get to know them beyond what their day-to-day job is. It takes time, but relationships are essential in the safety business.

BG - Be ready and willing to grind at the beginning of your career.  Don’t be afraid to take on tough and challenging jobs, you’ll be better for it in the long run.  Try to find jobs where you’ll learn a lot, preferably with a good mentor.

BH - You have to stay up to date on new regulations – that’s table stakes for being in the role. Find creative ways to help the employees buy into the safety culture. Make sure you are leading by example – that is critical to having the respect of the employees. As we have mentioned, getting the management to lead by example is a great way to increase engagement so make sure to develop those relationships as well.

Q - What are your favorite resources to stay on top of safety trends? How do you continue to grow as a safety pro? 

TH - I love to read! So anything I can get my hands on or view online is the best learning tool for me. However, growth comes by listening. I’m blessed to be in an environment surrounded by some Safety professionals who truly love what they do. I always say I learn something new every day. I believe to grow we should always stay in learning mode.

BH - A free and immediate resource available to everyone - that we often take for granted - is taking the time to learn from your incidents and near misses. By taking the time to analyze these, it creates fantastic learning opportunities.  I also like to network and work with other Safety professionals. That is a great way to learn something new and stay on top of trends.

SO - On a similar note, we have 42 other Cardinal facilities that I can reach out to for help. Our communication is very important. If we had an incident, accident or close call, I enter it into the Velocity portal and all EHS managers will be able to read this and adapt their programs as well.

Q - What changes would you like to see OSHA implement?

BG - I would like to see OSHA update their permissible exposure limits for airborne contaminants.  Many of the limits are out of date and should be more protective.

BH - I think that OSHA should do more outreach and training to small employers. They can help small and medium-sized businesses get started and show them the correct way to run a safety program. Smaller companies don’t have as many resources and could use the extra assistance.


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